When romantic couples blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for their stress, they were happier in their relationships, relationship experts have found.
The Covid-19 pandemic led to many couples suddenly working from home, spending more time together, trying to homeschool children, dealing with job losses and dealing with the fear and anxiety of a quickly spreading deadly virus.
The team from the University of Texas at Austin, US, analysed data collected from 191 participants during the early weeks of the pandemic and again seven months later.
They found that although people were generally less happy in their relationship when they were experiencing more stress, the harmful effects of stress were weaker among those individuals who blamed the pandemic for their stress.
The researchers initially thought that the protective effects of blaming the pandemic might fade over time, but that was not the case.
“Even though people have been under a lot of stress for a long time, the pandemic has continued to be a major headline in the news, which may keep it in people’s awareness — making it easier to keep blaming the pandemic and to reduce stress spillover by blaming the pandemic,” said Lisa Neff, Associate Professor of human development and family sciences at the varsity.
Previous research has shown that romantic partners tend to be more critical toward each other when experiencing common stress — what researchers call stress spillover — but major events such as natural disasters are not always associated with poor relationship functioning.
Because these significant stressors are more noticeable than routine situations, people may be more aware that stress is affecting them and spilling over into the relationship, said researchers.
“Because of this awareness, when major stressors occur, romantic partners may be less likely to blame each other for their problems and more likely to blame the stressor, which may reduce the harmful effects of stress on the relationship,” Neff said.
“Some people come together and they say, ‘This is a stressful situation and we’re going to tackle this together, and we’re not going to blame each other for things that are hard or difficult,'” added Marci Gleason, Associate Professor of human development and family sciences at UT Austin.